Thursday, June 12, 2014

Spanish flu redux

The Spanish Influenza pandemic of 1918
Deep within the groves of academe, where lords and ladies confer with a Miracle-glued moderation, occasionally a giddy case of English breaks out.

And such seems to be so in the the case of Yoshihiro Kawaoka, a researcher at the University of Wisconsin at Madison.
On Wednesday, [Kawaoka] and an international team of scientists published a study in Cell Host and Microbe that said they created a life-threatening virus that is only 3 percent different from the 1918 Spanish flu, which likely killed more people than the Black Death.
An estimated 50 million people worldwide fell victim to the Spanish flu and even today researchers still don't have a handle on its causes or prevention. Kawaoka's argument is that recreating such a virus allows humanity to be prepared in the event of another such pandemic.

Critics think Kawaoka is out of his fucking mind.
“The work they are doing is absolutely crazy,” Lord May, the United Kingdom’s former chief science adviser, told the Guardian. ”The whole thing is exceedingly dangerous. Yes, there is a danger, but it’s not arising from the viruses out there in the animals, it’s arising from the labs of grossly ambitious people.”
A virologist at the renowned Pasteur Institute in Paris was similarly fretful. “It’s madness, folly,” Simon Wain-Hobson explained to the Guardian. “It shows profound lack of respect for the collective decision-making process we’ve always shown in fighting infections. If society, the intelligent lay-person, understood what was going on, they would say, ‘What the F are you doing?’”
I guess all this interests me partly because I would prefer not to drop dead at the hand of some scientific experiment gone awry. Also, my mother's mother was killed by Spanish flu. Also, I am interested in the conundrum faced by the United States when sending its troops overseas to fight in World War I (1914-1918): Spanish flu was recognized as a disease spread in confined spaces; troop ships were confined spaces; as a result, large numbers of American troops arrived on foreign soil too sick to fight ... if not dead already.

1 comment:

  1. I'm paranoid enough to wonder if there's an unspoken fear that he might find a cure that would put them out of business.